A new play has shocked audiences in the Gaza Strip by shouting out what many in the Hamas-ruled territory mutter behind closed doors -- that Palestinian politicians are a bunch of crooks.Perhaps the Swiss aid is what made Hamas think twice about shutting the play down.
The biting comedy entitled "Umbilical Cord" goes after the Islamist Hamas and its secular Fatah rivals, accusing them of ignoring the suffering of their people and selling out to Iran and the United States, respectively.
Though it takes to task all the main Palestinian factions, the play is remarkable for its criticism of Hamas, which has ruled the embattled territory since driving out its Fatah rivals in June 2007.
The main Palestinian factions are represented throughout the play by four men in suits sarcastically referred to as "The Great Ones", all carrying briefcases labeled "politics."
A colored cord identifies their factions -- green for Hamas, yellow for Fatah, black for Islamic Jihad and red for the smaller leftist factions, hence the title.
Throughout, the play heavily implies that Fatah is in the employ of the United States while Hamas works for Iran.
"Setting up a faction is easier than opening a shop," says Lafi al-Ahbal, the wise fool of the play.
"If you want to set up a faction just shout slogans about Jerusalem and the settlements and the wall and incontinence... You'll make a fortune in aid."
The harshness of the criticism shocked many in the audience. Since it seized power Hamas has brutally cracked down on any perceived threat to its rule, whether from Fatah members or more radical Islamic groups.
Yet despite fears of a shutdown the play ran as planned, each evening drawing some 1,500 Gazans eager for diversion after all the enclave's formal theatres and cinemas were shut down during the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in the 1980s.
A handful of local and international cultural centers, like the al-Shawa Cultural Center where "Umbilical Cord" was shown, however, carry on cultural life here, hosting plays and other events.
"This is a scream in the face of the officials, because the people are sick and tired of the way they do business," said Iyad Abu Shariya, who heads an independent cultural organization that produced the play with aid from the Swiss development fund and local donors.
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